Top players slam World League
REACTION: Some of the World Top players, including All Blacks, captain Kieran Read and Ireland flyhalf Jonathan Sexton, have voiced their concerns in regards to the proposed World League.
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With World Rugby determined to confirm the global League as early as March, players have warned of serious “player welfare and integrity concerns” around the competition’s structure for the global game.
The World League will reportedly see 12 participating nations meet once a year, with a finals series contested at the end of the year.
It is understood that the Six Nations sides will travel south to each play three randomly allocated tests, with the Rugby Championship – potentially expanding to include Japan and the United States.
Southern sides will then head north in November to play those they missed in July, and the top four teams on the table after that will meet in the Northern hemisphere for the playoffs.
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Despite, most rugby bosses like New Zealand CEO Steve Tew in full support of World Rugby vice-chairman Agustin Pichot’s brainchild, the top players have finally voiced their objection against the potential 12-year deal during an International Rugby Players Council’s conference call on Tuesday.
Nine of the world’s top ten international team captains dialled and highlighted their main concerns:
– Player load challenges from multiple top-level test matches in different countries and time-zones in consecutive weeks
– Increased long-haul travel in short time frames
– A lack of real opportunities for Tier Two nations to progress
– Increased conflicts between country and club demands and Regulation 9 release periods
– Potential impact on Rugby World Cup and Lions tours
– The long-term quality and integrity of the international game
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All Blacks captain and council member Read said: “We need to be very careful that we balance the commercial needs of the game, with the player welfare needs and ensure the quality and integrity of matches meet expectations.
“Fans want to see meaningful games; they don’t want to see fatigued players playing a reduced quality of rugby as part of a money-driven, weakened competition that doesn’t work for the players or clubs.
“With new technologies, new broadcast deals and new money coming into the sport, this is a crucial moment for rugby and one that many players are generally excited about. However, we have to make sure that the integrity of the game and welfare of the players is protected,”
Ireland star and International Rugby Players President Jonathan Sexton shared Read’s sentiments: “While players gave this idea a cautious welcome when we met at the end of last year, it now seems like a commercial deal on the future of the game is being negotiated at a rapid pace with little consideration given to the important points we raised with World Rugby in November.
“The issue of the player load has never been so topical, however, needs to be properly understood. To suggest that players can play five incredibly high-level test matches in consecutive weeks in November is out of touch and shows little understanding of the physical strain this brings”
England captain Owen Farrell added: “Players are definitely open to discussing a new global season, but what we develop has to work with the club game in order to reduce conflict, deal with player release issues and make sure their welfare is looked after.
“The proposal presented to us at the moment doesn’t seem to have considered this properly and shows no signs of improving this already difficult situation.”
It is understood that with the aspect of promotion and relegation being ruled out, island nations like Fiji – currently ranked ninth in the world – Samoa and Tonga will likely be uninvolved for at least a decade.
Samoa captain Chris Vui represented the Pacific Islanders’ stance: “For countries in this bracket and for Pacific Islanders, in particular, our biggest issue has always been the ‘club versus country’ factor. We feel that a 12-year deal is not workable, particularly when it presents no hope of advancement during that period. This will have the dangerous knock-on effect of luring senior players away from their countries and more towards the clubs, which is the exact opposite of what we’re all trying to achieve”.